Women take off
A dream job for many; a dream come true for a fortunate two. From an early age, Captain Jeymie Hilbert and First Officer Evelyn Batista knew they wanted to fly planes, big planes. And that is exactly what they do.
In the cockpit of the Boeing 757: Captain Jeymie Hilbert (left) and First Officer Evelyn Batista (right) fly from Panama to Miami in the U.S., and to destinations in Central America and the Caribbean.
Piloting huge cargo planes might not be every girl's dream, but there are always exceptions - at DHL Aviation Panama, for example. Based in Tocumen International Airport, and at the helm of a huge Boeing 757-200, Hilbert and Batista have added a another notch to their respective flying belts. As the company's first all-female cockpit crew, they fly freight from Miami in the U.S., and from there to destinations in Central America and the Caribbean. But while they appreciate and are proud of the recognition, the two say there is really no difference in being part of a mixed or a single-sex crew.
"We've all received the same training," says Captain Hilbert, who joined DHL Aviation some 12 years ago, has 900 hours in charge of a B757 and over 5,000 flight hours overall. "Of course it makes a change to have woman sitting beside me," she says. "But woman or a man, my first officers are professionals. I see no difference at all."
Working while otjers sleep
DHL Aviation Panama
DHL Aviation Panama (DHL Aero Expreso, S. A.) was formed in 1996 as the first certified AAC/FAA all cargo international Panamanian airline. The company is home to the major DHL Latin America Hub and processes over 5 million kilos of DHL material each month. It operates daily flights to North, Central and South America and the Caribbean, and is the second-largest airline operator in the Republic of Panama.
As the captain, Hilbert naturally takes responsibility for everything that happens in the cockpit. But although she makes the decisions, she checks with her first officer before following through. "I might be in charge," she says, "but I seek and value my first officer's opinion. We are very much a team. "First Officer Batista has been flying for DHL since 2007, originally as a flight engineer on Boeing 727-200s, where she clocked up some 900 hours. And having first co-piloted a Boeing 757-200 in 2011, she has since completed 1,500 hours in the seat.
"Being part of the first female crew was quite an emotional experience," she admits, "but I agree it makes no difference if the captain is a woman or a man. We do our jobs, and we do what we're trained to do."With only about 25% of cargo flights going out during the day, Hilbert and Batista usually work when most other people sleep. "I actually like the night-time schedule," says Hilbert. Batista agrees. "It takes time to adjust to the unusual hours," she says, "but now I'm used to resting when nature would have me be awake."
Parallels on and off the plane
Years on from that shared childhood dream, the parallels between the two continue. Both trained as private pilots before going on to obtain a commercial license in order to fly for DHL. Although the routes they took were rather different, the outcome was still the same."I guess you could say I've worked for DHL all my life," quips Captain Hilbert, who marks 13 years of service with the company this year. "I went into aviation training straight from school, and was 21 when I qualified and took my job with DHL."Batista, on the other hand, started out as a flight dispatcher in 2001. She then trained as a private pilot in her spare time in 2004 and, after taking a break in her training to start a family, she received her commercial license in 2007.
Quality versus quantity
The Boeing 757-200
Maximum Taxi Weight (MTW) 241,000 lbs. Maximum Zero Fuel Weight (ZFW) 194,000 lbs, Maximum Landing Weight (LW) 210,000 lbs. 15 positions. Main Deck Capacity 187 M3. Belly Capacity 51 M3. Cargo Converted by Precision Conversion at Flight Start, Jacksonville Florida, USA. Engines Pratt & Whitney 2037.
Balancing work with family life is something else the two women share. Both have young families. Surprisingly, they find that rather than making things difficult, their 'unsocial' hours give them quality time at home. "We're usually away three days, and then we're off for three days," says Captain Hilbert, who has a daughter aged five and a son aged one. "Of course, I always keep in touch while I'm away. But the routine is better than a normal working week. I can dedicate myself 100% to my job when I'm working, and 100% to my family when I'm at home.
"For First Officer Batista, whose children are seven and two, work-life balance comes down to accepting quality rather than quantity. "Marrying work and family can sometimes be hard. It can be difficult to plan, and I sometime miss important moments, but then I get to spend three full days at home every week."
When asked what she likes most about her job, Captain Hilbert answers: "Everything! From the moment I arrive at the airport, to the moment we put the plane into its parking position and switch everything off. I'd never want to do anything else."Batista is a little more precise. "I love that question!" she fires backs, honing in on two particular phases of the flight. "For me it's the thrill of pushing the throttles forward and picking up speed moments before we take off. Feeling the power of the engines makes me stick to my seat. Plus, I'm living my dream. I'm flying a really big plane!"
Author: Carol Stocks